Posts tagged ‘sherry’

The Dalmore 12 Year Scotch Review

Red Deer StagUp here in Boston, it is starting to get pretty damn cold.  That wind is starting to whip off the harbor and chill the bones.  Simply put, there is no better time to find a warming whisky (especially if you don’t have much control over your heat).  Today’s review is of The Dalmore 12 year single malt Scotch, a wonderfully warming Highland whisky.  The Dalmore distillery is located on the north east coast of Scotland, but it has very little seaside influence.  The Dalmore 12 year is matured for its first 9 years in ex-bourbon casks before the whisky is separated in half.  Half the spirit is allowed to continue its aging in the ex-bourbon casks.  The other half of the whisky is transferred to ex-Oloroso Sherry casks that previously held 30 year-old Sherries.  The end result is a whisky that drinks well beyond its proof point and well beyond its limited Sherry influence.  The Dalmore 12 year is bottled at 80 proof (40% abv).

The nose has a lot of Sherry influence right away.  There are notes of orange peels, currants, tree bark, and Fig Newtons.  The nose has a good balance of dense and sweet flavors.  The palate is full-bodied, with a lot of Sherry and old oak spices.  The most prominent notes are orange marmalade, cocoa powder, and white chocolate.  The finish is long and very warming, tingling the palate with lingering flavors of wood spices, dry Sherry, and a wee puff of smoke. Red Stag

Overall, The Dalmore drinks beyond its alcohol content, as it has a lot of body for a whisky bottled at 40% abv.  The Oloroso influence hits hard and keeps coming, but there is enough depth and complexity to hold the whisky together.  I would love to see this whisky with some of the big, sherried notes turned down.  Perhaps that experience awaits me in run-ins with the older expressions in The Dalmore range.  All that said, this is still one of my favorite whiskies, especially in the late fall.  I really just like the way it tastes and the warmth it provides.  My grade: B/B+.  Price: $50-60/750ml.  This is a big, full-bodied whisky with a lot of Sherry influence.

p.s. If you are wondering about the red stags in the post and on the front of The Dalmore’s bottles, here is the story told by the distillery.  In 1263, an ancestor of the Clan Mackenzie (who bought The Dalmore distillery in 1891) saved the King of the Scots, Alexander III, from being gored by a charging red stag.  Whether fact or fiction, the legend is an essential part of the story of the Clan Mackenzie and The Dalmore.  The stag head adorns the Clan Mackenzie’s coat of arms and every bottle of The Dalmore whisky.  The Dalmore has also incorporated a “King Alexander III” expression into the distilleries lineup to honor the famous event.  Whatever the real story, its a cool logo for a wonderful whisky, echoing the power and beauty of the red stag itself (unlike that swill coming out of Jim Beam).


The Balvenie 12 yr DoubleWood Scotch Review

The Balvenie DoubleWood 12 yearSorry for my hiatus folks, but I was busy becoming a Master of Theological Studies.  This, of course, means that I was drinking more and reviewing less, which I am hoping to remedy over the next few weeks (the reviewing, I mean).  Today’s review is of The Balvenie 12 year DoubleWood, a single malt Scotch from the Speyside valley.  The DoubleWood label refers to the fact that all the whisky has been aged primarily in American oak, and then transferred to first-fill Sherry casks before bottling.  The Balvenie has an extensive range of whiskies, many of them finished in various other barrels (the 21 year Portwood is my favorite of the editions I have tried), and The Balvenie has recently won a lot of accolades for their Tun 1401 collection.  However, like most distilleries, The Balvenie still makes their money off their flagship whisky, the 12 year old DoubleWood.  It is bottled at 86 proof (43% abv).

On the nose, this whisky is mostly sweet.  There are notes of honey, sweet malt, rum raisins, spiced pecans, and toasted wood.  The palate is medium-bodied, smooth, and sweet.  There is a nice balance of malt, oak, and a wee bit of peat.  The finish leaves a bit of oaked spiciness, but it is a rather short finish.

Overall, I wish the finish would last longer, but this is a fine whisky.  It is a great example of what a little bit of sherry influence can do with a light Speyside malt.  It is a short, sweet, well-put together Scotch whisky.  My grade: B-.  Price: $50-60/750ml.  This is a good, solid single malt, but I do think there are better whiskies at lower prices, especially if you are looking for a simple, light Speysider.

Holiday Whiskey Comparison Review: Part 2 – 18 yr. Scotch Whisky

For part 2 of my comparison of 18 year-old whiskies, I am reviewing an 18 year-old Islay and an 18 year-old Speyside.  In my opinion, Islay whisky is bottled best at younger ages because the peat smoke stays lively and fresh.  On the contrary, Speyside whisky is bottled best at older ages because the light, floral, fruity new make benefits from the extra years in the oak to bring the complexity out in the whisky.  Of course, like my first comparison review, whenever you are buying an old and rare Scotch, do your research.  Not all whiskies are created the same, and not all whiskies age well.

Before getting to the reviews, I have to set forth a disclaimer.  I have not bought a bottle of either of these Scotches.  I have drank the Laphroaig 18 yr. on several occasions, but I have only tried The Glenlivet 18 yr. on one occasion.  Therefore, take my tasting notes with a bit more salt than usual.

Laphroaig 18 yr. is bottled at 96 proof, giving it a little more body.  On the nose, Laphroaig 18 yr. is classic Laphroaig.  There are notes of salted pork, peat, smoke, fresh barley, seaweed, and soft honey.  The palate has a solid backbone of toasted nuts, but the salt and peat of Laphroaig never leaves.  There are also notes of dark vanilla, honey, salted caramel, and some oak.  The palate lacks structure, but it is still big, full, and complex.  The finish is a wonderful, long Laphroaig finish, with some lingering sweet oak surrounded by the peat and smoke of a Laphroaig whisky.

Overall, this is fantastic whisky that intensifies a lot of the subtle flavors in other Laphroaig expressions.  However, it lacks structure, and it seems to wander as a whisky.  That is not a bad thing; it is just a difference between the 18 year and other expressions of Laphroaig.  My grade: B+/A-.  Price: $90-100/750ml.  This is a very good whisky, but there are better expressions from Laphroaig that are available at better prices.


 The Glenlivet 18 year-old is a much different whisky.  It is bottled at 86 proof, slightly higher than the 12 and the 15 year-old expressions.  On the nose, there is some oloroso sherry, but is not overpowering.  There are notes of hazelnuts, walnuts, cereal grains, and agave nectar.  The palate is sheer brilliance.  It opens with sherried nuts, but it moves to a complex sweetness of cinnamon apples and spiced dark honey.  The finish is long, with a lot of oloroso sherry.  It is warming, with some drying oak and sweet vanilla.

Overall, this is an awesome whisky.  The palate is one of the best I have tried.  It takes the fruitiness of The Glenlivet spirit, and transforms it into a complex, warming dram perfect for all seasons.  My grade: A.  Price: $80-90/750ml.  This is an incredible dram, worth the money for the most special of occasions.

Between the two whiskies, I clearly prefer The Glenlivet 18.  However, they are both whiskies to be savored, and they should both be on your holiday gift list if such things are your flavor.  I believe The Glenlivet 18 is the best of the range, whereas I believe there are at least two Laphroaig whiskies (Quarter Cask and 10 year-old Cask Strength) that are much better value than the 18.  Of course, what you like is all up to you.  Happy Thanksgiving everybody, and let it ride!


Bunnahabhain 12 Year Review

Well, today is my birthday, so I am going for pure pleasure.  Today, I am doing a review of one of the finest whiskies on the planet, Bunnahabhain 12 year-old single malt Islay Scotch.  If you would like to know how to pronounce Bunnahabhain, let Brian Cox help you.

I have talked a little about Scotch regions in the past, yet I have not yet talked about Islay.  Islay is my favorite Scotch region; it is known for massive, powerful whiskies that take your taste buds for one hell of a ride.  “Peat Monsters” like Laphroaig, Ardbeg, and Lagavulin all come from Islay.  However, there is a lighter side of Islay as well, with distilleries like Bowmore, Bruichladdich, and Bunnahabhain.

Bunnahabhain is a non-chill filtered whisky, aged in Sherry casks, bottled at 92.6 proof.  It has a rich, amber color, a much darker color than most Islay Scotches.  On the nose, it is sweet and salty.  The sweetness comes primarily from the Sherry influence, giving way to almonds, dark fruits, berries, and sweet oak.  The saltiness comes primarily from the peat, offering a soft whiff of smoke every soft often in the nose.  The palate has the traditional fullness of an Islay Scotch, yet the flavor profile is much different.  The front of the palate picks up a full array of sweetness, with notes of hazelnuts, almonds, some light cinnamon sugar spiciness, blackberries, boysenberries, and dried apricots.  As the whisky moves towards its finish, it begins to show its Islay roots.  The back of the palate begins to get smokier, until the smoke finally releases its power in the finish.  The finish is long (another Islay trademark).  It starts off with a big puff of peat smoke, yet it becomes deliciously sweet over time, echoing the sweet and salty balance of the nose.  The finish seems to take you right to the sea, where a cool autumn breeze is blowing salt into your nostrils as you eat freshly picked raspberries.

As you might have guessed, I love this whisky.  My only wish is that the Sherry would not be quite so strong on the front of the palate.  Occasionally, you can find this whisky for under $50, which makes it a pretty good deal.  Honestly, I have seen other Scotches with this depth and complexity cost twice that much.  My grade: A-.  Price: $45-50/750ml.  This is a whisky for special occasions, and it comes through beautifully.  It tastes well beyond its price point.